Bright Wall/Dark Room.
2 months ago
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Excerpt from the new issue:  Andrew Root on Tank Girl (1995):

"It’s 2033, and eleven years since the last rainfall. An arid, desert landscape sets the scene in which an evil corporation called “Water & Power” controls most of the earth’s remaining water supply (and therefore all the power - political, economic, military, what have you). Tank Girl and her colourful band of compatriots operate outside the grid, illegally siphoning water from W&P’s pipeline; that is, until the heavies get wise to the bandits and raid them, killing most of Tank Girl’s friends and imprisoning our heroine. Attempts to break her spirit are as fruitless as King Canute’s attempts to domesticate the waves; the ocean wasn’t meant to be contained in a bottle. Tank Girl’s gleeful disinterest in authority and her subsequent (inevitable) escape from prison sets the stage for the utter insanity that is the second half of this movie, the plot of which couldn’t possibly matter less.
Tank Girl, the movie, isn’t exactly a prestige piece. Naomi Watts, who plays Jet Girl, is reportedly ashamed of this movie. Alan Martin and Jamie Hewlett (co-creators of the source material) call working on the film “a horrible experience,” claiming that the script was “lousy.” It also bears mentioning that rapper Ice-T is perplexingly cast as a genetically mutated kangaroo. The ambitious amount of bonkers-level content meant that Tank Girl was destined to be a cult film. The movie’s problems lie like boulders on the film’s landscape; irrefutable and immoveable. Yet trickling through this rocky terrain is Lori Petty’s Tank Girl, winding over, under and around the film’s formidable challenges as undeniably as a river carving a path to the sea. The title character is wrought with such irreverent unflappability that while she may not drown the boulders, she can deftly skip around them and joyfully leave them behind. Petty’s performance is one of rare energy and inventiveness, navigating effortlessly through a song and dance number, several gun battles, animated montages, and every other filmmaking trick that director Rachel Talalay throws at her.”

(illustration by Brianna Ashby)

To read the rest of this essay, download the Bright Wall/Dark Room app to your iPhone or iPad for free, or subscribe online for just $2 per month.

Excerpt from the new issue: Andrew Root on Tank Girl (1995):

"It’s 2033, and eleven years since the last rainfall. An arid, desert landscape sets the scene in which an evil corporation called “Water & Power” controls most of the earth’s remaining water supply (and therefore all the power - political, economic, military, what have you). Tank Girl and her colourful band of compatriots operate outside the grid, illegally siphoning water from W&P’s pipeline; that is, until the heavies get wise to the bandits and raid them, killing most of Tank Girl’s friends and imprisoning our heroine. Attempts to break her spirit are as fruitless as King Canute’s attempts to domesticate the waves; the ocean wasn’t meant to be contained in a bottle. Tank Girl’s gleeful disinterest in authority and her subsequent (inevitable) escape from prison sets the stage for the utter insanity that is the second half of this movie, the plot of which couldn’t possibly matter less.

Tank Girl, the movie, isn’t exactly a prestige piece. Naomi Watts, who plays Jet Girl, is reportedly ashamed of this movie. Alan Martin and Jamie Hewlett (co-creators of the source material) call working on the film “a horrible experience,” claiming that the script was “lousy.” It also bears mentioning that rapper Ice-T is perplexingly cast as a genetically mutated kangaroo. The ambitious amount of bonkers-level content meant that Tank Girl was destined to be a cult film. The movie’s problems lie like boulders on the film’s landscape; irrefutable and immoveable. Yet trickling through this rocky terrain is Lori Petty’s Tank Girl, winding over, under and around the film’s formidable challenges as undeniably as a river carving a path to the sea. The title character is wrought with such irreverent unflappability that while she may not drown the boulders, she can deftly skip around them and joyfully leave them behind. Petty’s performance is one of rare energy and inventiveness, navigating effortlessly through a song and dance number, several gun battles, animated montages, and every other filmmaking trick that director Rachel Talalay throws at her.”

(illustration by Brianna Ashby)


To read the rest of this essay, download 
the Bright Wall/Dark Room app to your iPhone or iPad for free, or subscribe online for just $2 per month.

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3 months ago
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Guess what?! 

Our fabulous art director and lead illustrator, Brianna Ashby, is now selling selected prints of her Bright Wall/Dark Room artwork from the past year—including this gorgeous Fantastic Mr. Fox watercolor portrait from our latest issue—for very reasonable prices.

There are currently 8 different prints available, and you’d be silly not to buy at least one as soon as humanly possible. To view and/or buy Brianna’s work, click here!

Guess what?!

Our fabulous art director and lead illustrator, Brianna Ashby, is now selling selected prints of her Bright Wall/Dark Room artwork from the past year—including this gorgeous Fantastic Mr. Fox watercolor portrait from our latest issue—for very reasonable prices.

There are currently 8 different prints available, and you’d be silly not to buy at least one as soon as humanly possible. To view and/or buy Brianna’s work, click here!

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3 months ago
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Coming very, very soon:
A brand new issue, focusing entirely on the films of Wes Anderson and Paul Thomas Anderson - get it the minute it’s available by subscribing to Bright Wall/Dark Room Magazine now!
We’re putting the finishing touches on it as we speak, and can’t wait for you to see it. As our art director, Brianna Ashby, is possibly the biggest Wes Anderson fan on the planet (yes, she’s even had theme parties), you can just imagine how much fun she had doing the artwork for some of these. Consider this cover a taste of things come!

Coming very, very soon:

A brand new issue, focusing entirely on the films of Wes Anderson and Paul Thomas Anderson - get it the minute it’s available by subscribing to Bright Wall/Dark Room Magazine now!

We’re putting the finishing touches on it as we speak, and can’t wait for you to see it. As our art director, Brianna Ashby, is possibly the biggest Wes Anderson fan on the planet (yes, she’s even had theme parties), you can just imagine how much fun she had doing the artwork for some of these. Consider this cover a taste of things come!

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4 months ago
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(illustration by Brianna Ashby)
Did we mention that one of the essays in tomorrow’s new issue is all about Chinatown, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and the history of Los Angeles? Because that’s happening.
(Subscribe!)

(illustration by Brianna Ashby)

Did we mention that one of the essays in tomorrow’s new issue is all about Chinatown, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and the history of Los Angeles? Because that’s happening.

(Subscribe!)

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5 months ago
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Free essay from our new issue: Tracy Wan on Before Sunrise, Before Sunset & Before Midnight

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AFTER MIDNIGHT

by Tracy Wan

[ sunrise ]


Three summers ago, tucked between its gauzy, languid days, I found magic. I was twenty and alienated—by my own choosing, but also by a lack of choice. I needed magic, although I wouldn’t know that until, well, now. It was the kind of magic made possible through nostalgia for no real particulars, or the kind that makes this nostalgia possible, I’m not sure. Here’s what I know: the singularity of some experiences you will never accurately appraise until they disappear, like the sobering hues of the world as you take off your sunglasses at sunset.

But that summer was for sunrises, the very beginnings. In Before Sunrise, a young Julie Delpy says to baby-faced Ethan Hawke, as Celine to Jesse: “I believe if there’s any kind of God it wouldn’t be in any of us, not you or me but just this little space in between.” He was silent, and I was too. And then she said, “If there’s any kind of magic in this world it must be in the attempt of understanding someone sharing something,” and I felt it sink into my porous being.

In that little space between myself and these characters, that script, was the start of something affirmative, a pattern I would not see until much later. Because then, in June, I fell in love.

On occasion, life will come at you with a momentum so strong you have no choice but to allow it, let your body be carried by it, make your decisions as you’re moving and never jump out of the car. When Celine stayed with Jesse in Vienna, she was acquiescing to this moment, and aren’t we all so glad she did? When Jesse says, “I would marry you, alright?” we know he’s already there.

It feels wrong to compare falling in love to falling in love in the movies, but I’ll do it, because we met on a film set and that should be enough. And if that’s not enough, I’ll say that the day I met him I told my best friend, “I met him,” and she understood, and I meant it. It’s hard to deny or ration something that lands fully-formed into your chest. And if that’s not enough, well, if you asked me a thousand days from that day, I still would nod, as in, I had no choice, as in, “Let me get my bag.”

That summer we saw a lot of sunrises together. On a fall day he said “I love you” and it was not a learning, but a truth. I caught the red in his beard once and—you’ll laugh—thought of Jesse. How could I not.


[ sunset ]


A year later, I left.

As you move away from someone you love the impulse is to justify it with growth, as though through the inflation of each other’s independence and particularities you’ll bridge the gap together. Some people are gifted at collapsing distance upon itself, reducing it to an abstraction, but I couldn’t. I counted the days, the miles, the silences between everything. We stretched thinner and thinner with every phone conversation, fighting over who was giving up more, measuring who was sadder, always threatening to snap. I did most of this.

The first mistake was to move away for work, assuming that labour could turn into love, and that the one you love will catch up. Because, as irony would have it, love also turns into labour, and it’s harder to keep up with.

When we see Jesse and Celine again, it’s in Before Sunset, and it’s been nine years. They did not meet again in Vienna, and then life happened: he got married and cynical, and she got political and cynical. “Young and stupid,” Celine says of their former selves, but reaffirms the very connection they drew nine years prior: “I guess when you’re young, you just believe there’ll be many people with whom you’ll connect with. Later in life, you realize it only happens a few times.” Their conversation swells and gushes from the very moment they see each other again, and never ceases. Celine confesses that more than loneliness, she hates feeling estranged from a lover, but the convenience is that Jesse would never fit the profile. Despite the intercontinental distance, and despite the decade in-between. Later, she hugs him:

Celine: I want to see if you stay together or if you dissolve into molecules.

Jesse: How am I doing?

Celine: Still here.

Jesse: Good, I like being here.

Being here was all he had to do. He wrote a book to call out to her, and she came.

The Before films have gathered many accolades—all of which they deserve, some of which are credited to the writing. The “realism” of the dialogue is so vivid, so intimately touching to us that we wonder if it’s improvisation (no; all three are completely scripted) or the actors/co-writers playing themselves (maybe a little bit). I keep thinking about this realism as a Linklater Reality—the idyllic, topmost layer of reality as we know it. Sampled from life. Skimmed, curated. The best of the best and the worst. It’s hard not to make it exemplary. When I watch Celine and Jesse together, a little creature mewls in my chest. It’s the heart’s lament: Could it be this easy? Is the only thing we need presence, and attention? And worse—will I not see the beauty in these days, until the light is gone?

“You feel far away,” I’d whisper on the phone sometimes, hesitating to release the words into the universe.

“You feel like you’re next to me,” he’d reply. But when he said my name, it felt like an apology.


[ midnight ]


Like developing a sudden affinity for cilantro, falling out of love is surprising, but not dismaying, to the body fostering the change. Previous relationships had come and gone, following the ebb and flows of a growing self-knowledge and a shrinking attention span. But some loves you don’t fall out of—even the word “falling” relieves you of your responsibility. It’s consolation. It’s not your fault. Some loves you have to wrestle out of yourself, kicking and screaming and very much alive.

Around the time Before Midnight started playing in theaters in Toronto, I knew it was the end but did not know how to tell myself this yet. I’d asked him to come visit and see it with me—the one thing I ask, it’s important to me, don’t you know how formative they are to me?—but he didn’t, couldn’t, something about work. Labour became love, and love became labour, and somewhere between these two moments in time we had stopped believing in the same things.

So I went with a friend, and afterwards found myself sitting in a plush seat in the dark, angry at Celine and Jesse for the first time, the very immature, over-emotional boil of not getting what you want. What I felt was no longer the perceived magic of a twenty year old falling uncannily in love in tandem with other twentysomethings on screen, but instead a very palpable chasm. Their love did not feel real anymore, which does not stem from the credibility of the film as much as it did from my emotional concerns at the time: in truth, my love did not feel real anymore.

I clenched my fists when I watched them at their worst, which was still better than most worsts. “Can you be my friend for two seconds?” Jesse asks her in the middle of a fight, in the middle of their ten years of unmarried-married life. She nods, smiles briefly, and they hold hands. It’s a beautiful moment, but someone entrenched in their own precocious self-pity would never see that, and I didn’t. Later, Jesse reminds her, “This is real life. It’s not perfect, but it’s real,” and I said under my breath, “Please.”

The romantic in me believed this “real life” of theirs, she truly did, and will again. In this world, love is always a possibility. Will they meet in Vienna in six months? Will Jesse miss his plane? Will they love each other for 50 more years? The temporality of the films allows for as much: with every before is the implication of an after. With them, we see the sun rise, set, and disappear.

“Still there, still there, still there, gone,” Celine says quietly, as she and Jesse watch the sun tuck itself into the Ionian Sea. But the camera stays on their faces—not gone yet. We see a passing glimpse of sadness, but it is just that: passing. As the film’s last line, she says, filling all of us with hope: “It must have been quite the night we’re about to have.”

And maybe that’s the permission that this Linklater Love gives us. An infrangible faith in potential, in the slow walk down stony paths that will always lead to somewhere beautiful. The hope and the danger. “That’s what fucks us up,” their friend Ariadni cautions, during their last lunch in Greece. “Romance, the notion of a soulmate.” And although Celine and Jesse (and Richard, and Julie, and Ethan) try very hard not to echo this archetype, they are soul mates—blemished and bruised and brooding, yes, but still soul mates, their frequencies humming to an intuitive, otherworldly understanding of each other, their conversations philosophical, their banter perfect. The privilege of years of writing and rewriting, I suppose.

And for a while, that was charming; a flawed but ideal love. It was bright, and it was the best hours out of eighteen years, and I was blind to the possibility of anything else. Myopia is often a side effect of falling in love—the magic of this life seems very close, and very clear. It’s an ignited world, punctuated by sunrises and sunsets. But then, inevitably, midnight came for this love of mine, a less-than-cinematic love. In this chronology, when before runs out there is no after. It was still there, still there, still there. Now it’s gone.

Tracy Wan is a writer living in Toronto, although she’s not quite sure what she’s doing there. She loves good advertising, bad television, and discovering novelty flavours.

——-

This essay currently appears in the February 2014 issue of Bright Wall/Dark Room Magazine. To read the rest of the issue, download the Bright Wall/Dark Room app to your iPhone or iPad for free, or purchase a copy of the issue for just $1 and receive full access to the issue online.

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5 months ago
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Philip Seymour Hoffman (illustrated by BW/DR’s Art Director, Brianna Ashby, Feb 2014)
Said Ashby about creating this picture earlier this week: ”I’m considering it a miracle that I didn’t actually cry ON it.” 

Philip Seymour Hoffman (illustrated by BW/DR’s Art Director, Brianna Ashby, Feb 2014)

Said Ashby about creating this picture earlier this week: ”I’m considering it a miracle that I didn’t actually cry ON it.” 

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7 months ago
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Our very special, year-end issue of Bright Wall/Dark Room magazine is now available, featuring a look back at some of our very favorite films of 2013. The issue is filled to the brim with good films, wonderful writing, and great art (including the illustration from Frances Ha, above, from Brianna Ashby, and a very special drawing of Frozen by my six year old daughter). It’s a hand-crafted issue full of love, and a perfect way to close out the year. Go ahead, get your friend a subscription for Christmas. 
Here’s what you’ll find in the new issue:
Alina Simone on Frances Ha
Andrew Root on Gravity
Sara Gray on All is Lost
Chris Cantoni on Short Term 12
Michelle Said on Frozen
Fran Hoepfner on Iron Man 3
Taylor K. Long on Room 237
Evan Bryson on Disaster Cinema
BW/DR Staff Picks: The Best Films of 2013
All subscriptions are still just $1.99 per month (less than a cup of coffee!), and come with a free 7 day trial, that includes access to all back issues and content.

Our very special, year-end issue of Bright Wall/Dark Room magazine is now available, featuring a look back at some of our very favorite films of 2013. The issue is filled to the brim with good films, wonderful writing, and great art (including the illustration from Frances Ha, above, from Brianna Ashby, and a very special drawing of Frozen by my six year old daughter). It’s a hand-crafted issue full of love, and a perfect way to close out the year. Go ahead, get your friend a subscription for Christmas. 

Here’s what you’ll find in the new issue:

Alina Simone on Frances Ha

Andrew Root on Gravity

Sara Gray on All is Lost

Chris Cantoni on Short Term 12

Michelle Said on Frozen

Fran Hoepfner on Iron Man 3

Taylor K. Long on Room 237

Evan Bryson on Disaster Cinema

BW/DR Staff Picks: The Best Films of 2013


All subscriptions are still just $1.99 per month (less than a cup of coffee!), and come with a free 7 day trial, that includes access to all back issues and content.

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10 months ago
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La Jetée (1962)

image

TIME BUILDS ITSELF PAINLESSLY AROUND THEM

by Brianna Ashby

“We are a landscape of all we have seen.” –Isamu Noguchi

Every summer, until the age of about five, my parents and I drove to Solomonʼs Island, Maryland to visit my grandparents at their home on the beach. Early every afternoon I followed my grandmother down the back stairs onto the sand and trailed behind her as we walked along the shore. Along the way she would stop and trace shapes around little treasures with her big toe—seashells, sea glass, sharkʼs teeth—that I would scoop up and plunk into my little plastic bucket. One afternoon we left the bucket behind; she had gotten me a beach ball, red and blue and yellow and white, the colors twirling like an inflatable pinwheel. As we were passing it back and forth a wind kicked up and carried the ball out to sea. Small and sad and helpless I watched as it bobbed up and down on the waves and drifted further and further away. A moment later, I stood frozen in abject terror as I watched my grandmother dive into the cloudy water in furious pursuit of the disappearing ball; I was convinced that she was going to be swept under the waves and that I would be the one to blame. I stood on the brink of the ocean, nearly hysterical, for a million years before I saw her paddling to shore. The ball was gone, but what did I care? I let her carry me home.

image “Nothing tells memories from ordinary moments. Only afterwards do they claim remembrance on account of their scars.”

La Jetée is the story of a man, The Man, haunted by a traumatic event from his childhood; a death on the pier at Orly Airport, sometime before the start of World War Three. His parents had taken him there to watch the planes, as was customary on Sundays before the hostilities broke out. There was an incident on the boarding platform. A man was killed. Although the scene was unspeakable, it wasnʼt the manʼs death that haunted him but the face of The Woman standing at the end of the pier. Through the chaos and horror he saw her more clearly than he had ever seen anything before and from that moment on he would keep her with him always, a beacon of tranquility and peace that carried him through his soldierʼs life. Some memories, especially those from our childhoods, are powerful enough to stay with us, to lead us back to that particular instant in that particular place that will exist forever in our minds. Sometimes a recollection is so powerful that it becomes something of an obsession, blotting out the weaker memories until the past and the present become one and the same. After years of turning inward to escape the atrocities of war, her face was all he could see.

image

In the aftermath of the Third World War Paris was destroyed, and with the Earthʼs surface “rotten with radioactivity,” all of the survivors fled underground to the Palais de Chaillot galleries. It is in this post-apocalyptic landscape that we meet The Man who is no longer a solider, but a prisoner of war. With outer space off-limits for colonization, mankindʼs only hope for survival is “to call pastand future to the rescue of the present,” to travel through time and carry back with them the building blocks for a new civilization. The scientists of the victorious parties begin conducting experiments on the prisoners in the hopes of finding a subject whose mental images are strong enough to fortify them against the shock of time travel; if a man can wholly conceive or dream atime and place he can live there. The experiments fail, resulting in disappointment, madness, and death for the subjects, until they reach The Man and The Woman whose face he cannot shake.

They send him back.

After ten days the images begin to materialize, fragments of the world before it was turned to rubble: a field, an empty bedroom, a “real” bedroom, real children, birds, cats, graves. On day sixteen, The Man is on the empty pier at Orly, and she is standing alone at the end. He begins to see her everywhere- in a car, on the pier- she is omnipresent. On the thirtieth day, they finally meet, walking through the sun-dappled gardens of Paris, an unspoken,unadulterated trust growing between them. No memories. No plans. The inventors send him back again and again, to meet her in different places and at different times, and she begins to welcome this strange visitor into her world. She affectionately calls him her ghost. They fall in love. On the fiftieth day they meet in a museum full of “ageless animals,” meandering together through the empty galleries, marveling at the static displays of what was once wild and free, a monument to the past, a resplendent mausoleum.

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The inventors bring him back to the present, and flush with success, they send him into the future to retrieve the means of survival for humankind. The people of the future offer to let The Man remain with them and escape his inevitable demise at the hands of his captors, but he has a different request: to return to his childhood, to that Sunday afternoon at Orly in the hopes of meeting his love at their inception. Instead of choosing to live in a pacified, but wholly alien future, he chose to return to the memory of the only place that felt like home, the only face that felt like home.

Itʼs the same reason we keep stacks of photographs and snapshots framed next to our bedsides - we need the comfort and stability of the familiar, even if what weʼre returning to is sad or traumatic. Itʼs what we know. Looking to the future can be exciting, but itʼs also terrifying, and itʼs nearly impossible to steel yourself for the shock of the new without the cushion of the past to fall back on. We can visit our histories as often as weʼd like, but we were never meant to live there. We can reach back and grab hold of those beacons of peace, hope, and love that we have squirreled away and carry them with us into the future because, eventually, we all have to make our way forward. Pushing on into the unknown is uncomfortable but necessary for our sanity, for our survival, instead of stagnating, mired in the past, trapped in the museums weʼve built to house our precious memories.

Over the years Iʼve been a frequent visitor to that patch of sand on Solomonʼs Island, where I stood transfixed squinting into the sun, frantically scanning the horizon for my grandmotherʼs bobbing shape. I take a deep breath and realize that I am no longer rooted to that spot. I relax my brow and uncrossing my fingers I dig my toes into the sand and everything is different, but everything is the same. In just a moment my abject terror will give way to unbridled joy and my grandmother will appear to carry me home. Time marches on.

image

Brianna Ashby's grandmother gave her another beach ball when she graduated from college. She managed to lose that one too.

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11 months ago
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ISSUE #3 OF BRIGHT WALL/DARK ROOM IS NOW AVAILABLE!
In this issue we look (mostly) at films having to do with journalism or the media in some form or another, with an occasional detour for new fare (Blue Jasmine) and an award-winning short film (Paperman). All in all, Issue #3 features nine new articles/essays from both staff and freelance writers (including Sheila O’Malley from RogerEbert.com!) and seven original illustrations from Brianna Ashby.
Click here to subscribe to BW/DR magazine directly from your iPhone or iPad. You will receive a 7 day free trial, which includes immediate access to this brand new issue, as well as full access to all previous issues. If you don’t currently own an iOS device, we are terribly sorry and promise you that we are working feverishly behind the scenes to make the magazine available on other platforms as soon as possible. 
(If you’re already a subscriber, check your device, Issue #3 should already be there waiting for you!)
 

ISSUE #3 OF BRIGHT WALL/DARK ROOM IS NOW AVAILABLE!

In this issue we look (mostly) at films having to do with journalism or the media in some form or another, with an occasional detour for new fare (Blue Jasmine) and an award-winning short film (Paperman). All in all, Issue #3 features nine new articles/essays from both staff and freelance writers (including Sheila O’Malley from RogerEbert.com!) and seven original illustrations from Brianna Ashby.

Click here to subscribe to BW/DR magazine directly from your iPhone or iPad. You will receive a 7 day free trial, which includes immediate access to this brand new issue, as well as full access to all previous issues. If you don’t currently own an iOS device, we are terribly sorry and promise you that we are working feverishly behind the scenes to make the magazine available on other platforms as soon as possible. 

(If you’re already a subscriber, check your device, Issue #3 should already be there waiting for you!)

 

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1 year ago
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Excerpt from BW/DR, Issue #2: Stephen Sparks on Barton Fink (1991):

"In his Pensees, Pascal laments that “all of humanity’s problems come from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” It’s the photograph—and, in part, what’s on the far side of the photograph—that lures Barton out of his concentrated solitude.
At the beginning, of course, all Barton desires is to sit and work in peace, alone with his mighty themes. But the clamor of the world comes to him, through the thin wall, in the sound of a man weeping in the next room. Or is he laughing? As with much in Barton Fink, the answer is ambiguous, endlessly interpretable, even contradictory.
The horizon, claims French poet Yves Bonnefoy, exists as a temptation, drawing us away from the here and now towards an imagined country—Bonnefoy calls it the arriere-pays. The arriere-pays (translated imperfectly into English as the “hinterlands”) is not a real country—or even a country; part of its allure is its endless mutability and its ability to keep its distance. You can never reach the other side of the horizon. Therefore, this place or non-place existing on the far side of the unapproachable horizon is similarly out of reach.
For Barton, the horizon exists on several levels: the enigmatic woman whose face he can never know, the unapproachable distant edge of the sea, and what’s just over there, the next room over. (The closest we come to seeing the inside of the room next door happens just after Barton discovers that the woman he slept with the night before has been butchered in his bed. A cold blue light spills out.)
The horizon also represents an escape. And, we sense, there’s little Barton wants more than to escape the situation he has gotten himself into.”

 To read the rest of Stephen’s essay, click here to download Bright Wall/Dark Room magazine directly from your iPhone or iPad.
(Illustration by Brianna Ashby)

Excerpt from BW/DR, Issue #2: Stephen Sparks on Barton Fink (1991):

"In his Pensees, Pascal laments that “all of humanity’s problems come from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” It’s the photograph—and, in part, what’s on the far side of the photograph—that lures Barton out of his concentrated solitude.

At the beginning, of course, all Barton desires is to sit and work in peace, alone with his mighty themes. But the clamor of the world comes to him, through the thin wall, in the sound of a man weeping in the next room. Or is he laughing? As with much in Barton Fink, the answer is ambiguous, endlessly interpretable, even contradictory.

The horizon, claims French poet Yves Bonnefoy, exists as a temptation, drawing us away from the here and now towards an imagined country—Bonnefoy calls it the arriere-pays. The arriere-pays (translated imperfectly into English as the “hinterlands”) is not a real country—or even a country; part of its allure is its endless mutability and its ability to keep its distance. You can never reach the other side of the horizon. Therefore, this place or non-place existing on the far side of the unapproachable horizon is similarly out of reach.

For Barton, the horizon exists on several levels: the enigmatic woman whose face he can never know, the unapproachable distant edge of the sea, and what’s just over there, the next room over. (The closest we come to seeing the inside of the room next door happens just after Barton discovers that the woman he slept with the night before has been butchered in his bed. A cold blue light spills out.)

The horizon also represents an escape. And, we sense, there’s little Barton wants more than to escape the situation he has gotten himself into.”

 To read the rest of Stephen’s essay, click here to download Bright Wall/Dark Room magazine directly from your iPhone or iPad.

(Illustration by Brianna Ashby)

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